State Department asks for 300 more troops to be sent to Iraq to protect US facilities
US President Barack Obama demanded Wednesday the world take action against the “cancer” of extremism in Iraq, as Washington revealed it had failed in an operation to free US hostages in neighbouring Syria.
It came a day after the so-called “Islamic State,” which has seized much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, released a video showing a masked militant beheading US reporter James Foley, provoking worldwide revulsion and condemnation.
As US jets continued to strike IS targets in Iraq, despite a threat to kill a second American reporter, Obama said: “When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”
Shortly after he spoke, the State Department asked for 300 more US troops to be sent to Iraq to protect US facilities.
In the video, a black-clad man said that Foley, a 40-year-old freelance journalist kidnapped in northern Syria in November 2012, had been killed to avenge US air strikes against his movement. The man then paraded a second US reporter, Steven Sotloff, before the camera and said he too would die unless Obama changes course.
In a day of fast-moving developments, the White House and the Pentagon said US military forces had “recently” tried to rescue “a number” of American hostages held in Syria by IS, but had failed.
“This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL (IS),” Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”
It was not immediately clear if either reporter was the target of the rescue mission.
Obama “authorised action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL (IS) custody,” a White House statement added.
Earlier, Obama paid tribute to Foley and said the Islamic State must be defeated.
“Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers,” he said, branding the militants genocidal murderers who target civilians and subject women and children to “torture and rape and slavery.”
“Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents,” he said, dismissing the IS claim to represent the aspirations of a global Muslim caliphate.
“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” he declared.
“We will be vigilant and we will be relentless… From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread.”
US intelligence believes the video is genuine, and the British government held a crisis meeting to launch an investigation because Foley’s executioner spoke English with a London accent.
“We have not identified the individual responsible, but from what we have seen, it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen,” Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters. “This is deeply shocking.”